Revised Kresge Renewal project will nearly double number of student beds at UCSC’s sixth residential college

Renewal plan will address housing needs and increase opportunities for learning

A rendering of the new academic building and Kresge College entrance from the north pedestrian bridge. (Rendering by Studio Gang)

Construction at the ambitious, long-awaited Kresge College Renewal project is nearly halfway done. The project has undergone recent changes, including the near-doubling of the number of student beds.

The Kresge Renewal is the name that was given to the massive rehabilitation and updating of the historic college, known for its post-modernist architecture and strong emphasis on social justice.

Kresge’s new residential halls are set to open next winter, while a new 35,000-square-foot academic center and plaza, set to be finished at the end of January 2023.

This Kresge Academic Center will have classrooms serving the entire campus, including a 600-seat lecture hall, which would become the largest of its kind on campus; a 150-seat lecture hall; and 50- and 35-seat classrooms. A 48-seat computing lab is also included.

The project in its entirety—including the second phase of construction that will begin at the south end of Kresge this fall—will be finished in 2025.

When the UC Regents approved the renewal project in March 2019, the Kresge Renewal project had about 550 beds counting both new construction and existing residential buildings. But project planners have nearly doubled that amount, increasing it to approximately 970, said Jolie Kerns, UC Santa Cruz’s Director of Physical and Environmental Planning. This results in a total net of 605 new beds.

Aside from maximizing the capacity of existing apartments, Kresge will add new residential halls that include 400 beds intended for first-year students. (The 400 beds are not all net new beds—they’re replacing some of the existing 365 beds.) The project team also relocated some administrative offices to Quarry Plaza to make room for the additional housing at Kresge.

“We were able to increase the number of beds within the existing building volume,” Kerns said. “We’re adding a third floor to a number of existing residential buildings in Kresge college by tucking it into the existing double-height space, including one building that was slated for removal; we’re now able to keep it with the increased budget, to help address the crucial need for housing. This is fulfilling two goals at once:  rehabilitating the historic architecture of the college in keeping with the original, while increasing capacity to help help with the housing crunch.”

Kerns credited Chancellor Cynthia Larive for making student housing a strong priority in the Kresge project.

“The project has the capacity to add those beds—it was just a question of budget—and she’s been terrific," Kerns said.

Larive praised the architects and project planners for finding ways to increase student housing, noting the critical need.

“We already house more than half of our students — more than any UC campus — but more housing is needed,” she said. “ The high rental prices and low availability of off-campus apartments make finding housing challenging for our students. It is great that our project planners have found ways to increase the number of spaces for students without expanding the footprint of the original project.”

Larive also called attention to the ways in which the project has preserved the vitality of the original Kresge College design, which was done by famed postmodernist architects Charles Moore and William Turnbull of Moore Lyndon Turnbull Whitaker.

“Next year is the 50th anniversary of Kresge College," she said. “I can’t think of a better way to honor the legacy of Kresge than a renewal project that preserves Kresge’s sense of community, while making the campus more welcoming and accessible to all students.”

Kerns has been working closely with Studio Gang Architects, the architectural firm of Jeanne Gang, noted architect and MacArthur Fellow whose firm is based in Chicago with offices in New York and San Francisco. They have teamed up with TEF Architects who are  responsible for the renovated buildings. Gang is recognized as one of the most prominent architects of her generation. She believes that architecture should be a vehicle for positive social and environmental impact.

“There are a lot of challenges and opportunities in this kind of project because of the historically significant architecture,” Kerns said. “But by addressing the issues creatively, we can simultaneously re-establish its integrity and update the project to the needs of the 21st century while focusing on what is important for the campus.”

Kerns also pointed out the improved wayfinding and circulation through the project, as well as its increased connectivity to the rest of campus, “and a greater sense of arrival," with better signage.

“We also want to create expanded areas for gathering, instill a strong sense of community for the residential college, and make sure pedestrians can walk freely throughout the project,” Kerns said.

The new construction is energy- and resource-efficient, with a system of "dual plumbing" that brings non-potable reclaimed stormwater for toilet flushing and irrigation needs, as well as potable water.

“It’s a really important feature in our drought climate,” Kerns said. “And the project is all-electric, which will contribute to the campus’ carbon neutrality goals," she said.

Large portions of the iconic Kresge architecture will be reconstructed to retain their same shape, look, and color, but with more durable and resilient materials.

Other features will include: a new cafe, which will be built close to the front of the Academic Plaza, and a pedestrian trail that will weave in and out of the cluster of three new residential halls.

Because of the necessary budget increase to fund the new beds, the Kresge team will go before the UC Regents for another round of approvals this spring.

Read a detailed report on Kresge history and the origins of the Kresge Renewal Project.